The Smart Specialisation Academy is the latest manifestation of the formal collaboration between Region Värmland and Karlstad University, and is funded by the partners for the period 2016 to 2020. It can be seen as an extension of the earlier 10 Professors Programme, but it is guided by a clearer strategy and expectations around collaboration between university and regional actors. The formation of the Smart Specialisation Academy after the RIS3 also means there is a direct focus on the specific priorities identified through the entrepreneurial discovery process and an intention to build a critical mass of research capability in these six areas.
The Smart Specialisation Academy is a continuation of the formal partnership arrangements between Region Värmland and Karlstad University. It has a steering group with involvement from both parties at the highest level (e.g. the University Rector, Director of Region Värmland) and political representation in the form of two Regional Commissioners. The Academy is a virtual entity and not a hard research centre/institute or building/space within the University. It does, however, have joint coordinators from the University and Region, and staff (e.g. finance and communication officers) that work to support its day-to-day operations. The cluster organisations in the region are not formally part of these management structures, but are fundamentally involved in shaping the activities of the Academy. An advisory group is also (as of October 2016) in the process of being formed, which will include representation from industry (including the cluster organisations), national government agencies, and European bodies.
The focus of the activities supported through the Smart Specialisation Academy will be the attraction of funding for collaborative projects that will help determine the form taken by the priority areas identified in the RIS3 of the region. These projects will build on the previous research capabilities and collaborations of the University and Region (e.g. under the 10 Professors Programme), but the emphasis on the priority areas will aim to give the collaborations more structure and accelerate their development. A particular focus of the Academy will be on applying for ERDF projects involving the University. Although the Academy has only been operating since March 2016, there are currently (as of October 2016) research projects underway relating to the RISS3 priorities of Nature, Culture and Place-based Digitalised Experiences; Forest-based Bioeconomy; and the gender mainstreaming objectives of the strategy. In addition there are currently funding applications in progress for projects relating to the other priority areas in the RIS3. When a broader range of projects are up and running, the Smart Specialisation Academy will play a role in facilitating learning between the different domains that they cover.
As reflected above, the Smart Specialisation Academy aims to deepen the ongoing process of strategic alignment between Karlstad University and its region by concentrating on the priority areas identified within the RIS3. Part of the thinking behind this approach is to enable the University and the Region to more effectively ‘package’ the collaboration that takes place. The ‘brand’ of the Smart Specialisation Academy will also allow them to more clearly communicate their activities outside of the region.